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For every superb Total Recall, True Lies, or Terminator movie that Arnold Schwarzenegger released, there were the lesser films that also helped to define his career. Examples include Eraser, The Sixth Day, and Collateral Damage. Each of these movies is perfectly watchable, but fails to fully exploit the abilities of their leading man. Is Jason Statham immune to this cyclical slump in quality to which so many action stars succumb? Of course not, and Safe is proof.

First off, Safe is predictable and violent. There is nothing clever about this story, no matter how tightly wound the plot is. In an action movie, especially one where the Russian mob, Chinese cartels, and the NYPD team up, violence is to be expected. The trick is to use over the top action as a way to grab the audience and move the story forward. Safe has so many indiscriminate fight scenes that my eyes glazed over and I began thinking up potential plot points for Crank 3: Dead Alive. Where the Crank franchise keeps the ass kicking fresh and varied, Safe has a very limited vocabulary: 9mm gunshot, MMA-style grappling, roundhouse kick, found object CQC, and repeat. Giving credit where it is due, the final battle against the shadowy main villain is hilarious in how it breaks form with the remainder of the movie. The viewer expects a major karate match, and gets something else entirely.

The reason for all of this mayhem and brutality is the race to find and exploit Mai, a young Chinese girl who holds in her mind a secret number. Forget the briefcases of yore, the macguffins of today are small immigrant children! After the girl escapes from her captor, mobster Uncle Han (James “Lo Pan” Hong), she encounters a broken and isolated Luke Wright (Statham). Wright is about to jump in front of a subway train to end the misery that has been inflicted upon him by Russian mobsters, the police, 9/11, and his shoes. According to the logic of the movie, the girl glances at Wright and he immediately and irreversibly decides that life is worth living. Now believing that he owes the girl his soul, the race is on for Wright to the protect Mei from her would-be captors. After this point, about twenty minutes in, I lost track of who was double crossing whom, and into which generic New York City slum neighborhood the protagonist was shooting.  Boredom begins early in this movie and never recedes, it is ongoing and fatal.

The failure of Safe is not an indictment of Statham as an actor or as a role model. In fact, the occasional misfire is to be expected when working in the action genre. When violence is too bland or too prevalent, as it was in Safe, then the story grinds to a halt. The audience begins to feel cheated when valuable runtime and exposition have been wasted on contrived and unnecessary battles.


0 x-factor, met low expectations with thorough mediocrity.


1 Comment

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  1. Pete says
    2012/06/12, 15:00

    I’ve been slacking off on Statham so I haven’t seen this yet. Two cans though? Yikes.

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